Debeers, Artificial Scarcity, and the Drug War

“If you look at the effect that the law has on the price of narcotics, it is clear that the function of the law is to protect the Cartels.” – Milton Freidman, Nobel Prize winning economist

In order to understand the Drug War, a good place to start would be the diamond industry.

Did you know that diamonds are actually worthless?  Their value is created by manufacturing an artificial scarcity.  A company called Debeers has a virtual monopoly on all diamond mining.  Not only that, they have the world’s largest reserves of diamonds locked in a huge underground vault in Europe.

If you understand the basic economics of the inversely proportional relationship between supply and demand, then its obvious why Debeers hoards all these diamonds:  to release them all to the market at once would be devastating to the price of the product.  Basically, as supply goes down, price goes up, and vice versa.

And thus we have the hallmark of late-stage capitalism: the commoditization of goods once freely and readily available via the manufacturing of an artificial scarcity that forces the consumer to pay more for the product.

Bottled water is a classic example of this.  Water used to be free.  Then, water supplies became polluted.  Now, you have to pay for purified water, being sold by the some of the same companies that polluted the water supply in the first place.  They create a problem, then sell you the solution.  The treatment is always more profitable than the cure.

The same thing is happening with the drug war.  At one point in time, drugs were freely available.  If not for the interference of governments backed by big business, drugs would grow everywhere.  They would grow out of the cracks in the sidewalk.  People could quite easily grow poppy, coca, and cannabis in their own gardens, and these plants would essentially become worth about as much as tomatoes, bananas, or any other easy-to-cultivate agricultural product.

The government often calls its actions against the drug supply “eradication efforts”.  It would be more appropriate to call them “scarcity efforts”.  Because the goal of these operations is not to eradicate the crops, but only to make them more scarce.  If the most powerful governments in the world wanted to erradicate a plant, I assure you that they easily could.  Erradication isn’t the point: the point is control of the supply, control of where the money goes, and, most importantly, creating an artificial scarcity that makes these crops worth trillions instead of pennies.

NATO’s newest opium erradication effort is a classic example of what I’m saying.  Notice, they aren’t going after the opium farmers, they are only going after the labs within Afghanistan that turn raw opium into heroin.  They don’t want to screw with opium farmers who ship their raw product to European countries like Turkey to be processed into heroin and distributed by the Eurpoean cartels.  They just want to cut the Afghanis out.  They aren’t trying to erradicate the supply, they are just trying to control it.

The entire purpose of the drug war is to take a product worth pennies and make it a product worth trillions by creating an artificial scarcity.  That is the one and only purpose of the drug war.  And all these “sheeple” voters who think that the Drug War is for the purpose of saving their precious children from the jaws of addiction are simply being duped.  I would feel sorry for them if I weren’t so disgusted by the bigotry in their hearts that makes them willing to put non-violent drug offenders in jail for no morally justifiable reason.

And thus, in trying to convince these types of people that the drug war is bad for humanity, I have abandoned moralist and idealistic arguments in favor of more effective appeals to their self interest.  We must explain to these people, how much the drug war costs them personally.  Even if you’ve never done drugs and have no intention of doing them, the Drug War still hurts you.  Its a huge tax burden, its a social injustice that causes civil unrest in the homeland, and it exposes us to national security risks by effectively shipping hundreds of billions annually to our worst foreign enemies.  If not for prohibition, this money could stay within our country.

On Healthcare

I would like to take this opportunity to voice support for some kind of public healthcare system.  This is in opposition to the Republican Healthcare Plan, aka “Work the Poor to Death”.  (to give credit where its due, the Republican plan would probably reduce the number of uninsured in America: by allowing them to die off)  Never have the lyrics to one of my favorite Dead Kennedys songs “Kill the Poor” rang so true.

Consider this:  A businessman owns an automated factory.  Machines do all the work.  If one of those machines breaks down, the factory owner pays to have it repaired.  Before that even happens, the factory owner will pay to properly maintain the machine.  This is the basic courtesy that they extend to the machines in their employ.  And yet, for 40 million American workers, this basic courtesy is not offered by business owners.  What is being implied by this action?  That machines are more valuable than human beings?  Is that what their cost-benefit analysis told them?  I suppose they are right: human resources are limited only by our capacity to reproduce, and thus human lives are not as valuable as physical resources: oil, coal, gold, and heavy machinery.

In case you are unfamiliar with the practice of American medicine, here’s how it works:  First, they diagnose you with a disease you don’t have, then they prescribe you treatment you don’t need, which eventually leads to you getting strung out on drugs.  Being a member of the ADD generation, I have witnessed this cycle many times, often carried out on children as young as 6 years old.  You can’t trust a capitalist doctor any more than you can trust a capitalist car mechanic: ultimately they are both trying to make a buck off you.  Its really sad when you can’t trust paid experts, but the truth is their loyalty only goes as far as the money you pay them.

Our corporate employers tell us we don’t work hard enough, then send us to doctors who hand us methamphetamines and tell us to work harder.  And having your healthcare dependent on your employer doesn’t exactly make for a mobile workforce, either.  Its a clear conflict of interest.

And that’s if your employer offers health coverage.  For all the private-sector bitching about the looming danger of a public health monstrosity, I’ve yet to hear the CEO of McDonald’s take responsibility for allowing all of those workers to go uninsured in the first place.  The private sector created this problem, and it is their failure.  That’s why I have no sympathy for their complaints of government involvement in their business.  The necessity of public healthcare in this country would not exist but for the negligence of the private sector.  They had their chance to do right of their own free will, and they blew it.  Now its time for the government to force them at gunpoint to take care of their employees.

I know what its like to be one of those 40 million, because I used to be one.  The funny thing about having divorced parents: when it comes time to pay for shit, they both point at each other.  So yes, my wealthy parents allowed my health coverage to LAPSE while I was in college, resulting in my not having the means to see a dentist for 7 years, despite being employed AND a full-time student.  A few years out of college I get a somewhat decent job, go to the dentist and he hands me a $15,000 estimate.  Most of the work he has to do could have been prevented had I been able to go to the dentist all those years ago.  To say nothing of living with the pain of EXPOSED NERVES IN MY MOUTH FOR 7 FUCKING YEARS.

Having had that rather unpleasant experience, I have now come to this conclusion:

If the poor of this nation are to spend their entire lives in servitude of the rich, piloting their limousines, cooking their burgers, and building their fucking pyramids, providing healthcare for us serfs, peons, and indentured servants is the LEAST THEY CAN FUCKING DO.  Tax the fuck out of those wealthy assholes and give the people some fucking healthcare.

Even if I were a capitalist, I would be in support of national public healthcare.  Why?  Because, as it stands, American medicine is the most transparent failure of capitalism, besides possibly our higher education system.  The longer this system is allowed to stand, the more people will turn against capitalism altogether, eventually leading to peasant revolt.

But, having said all that, here’s the other side of the coin:

The current healthcare plan being formulated by congress will be a compromise between Republican and Democrat interests that will be doomed to failure.  I blame the Republicans.  Their MO is to sabotage public programs and then blame the concept.

This is what they did with Social Security.  We had a national retirement plan.  Then Reagan and Bush I borrowed from the Social security trust to fund tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate bailouts (yes, they had bailouts in the 80’s, too).  Fast forward to the 2000 election, and Bush Jr says we should privatize Social security because “it has failed”.  Well who borrowed from the trust in the FUCKING FIRST PLACE, ASSHOLE?

By the way, the whole “Privatizing Social Security” plan- pure Republican Genius.  In light of the recent stock market collapse, that would’ve worked REAL WELL, huh?  Yeah, investment bankers are much better at managing retirement funds than the feds.  That must explain why my 401k is doing so well.

I’d trade my car for a train

Aldous Huxley once wrote: “Liberty?  There is no such thing.  Only gilded cages.”

I can’t help but think of this quote whenever I drive my car.

Don’t get me wrong.  Its not a bad car.  Its actually pretty nice.  Its the car I’ve always wanted since I was a kid.  It’s pretty plush: AC, leather, power windows, the works.  It looks sleek and sexy and I can definitely credit it for getting me laid.  It goes fast, and at one time was considered to get good gas mileage (although by today’s standards I’d say it falls short of that mark).

But the fact is, I’ve grown tired of it.  I’m tired of driving it, tired of maintaining it, and tired of insuring it.  I’m tired of being chained to a job I hate just so I can have my gilded cage.  I enjoy the freedom of leaving whenever I want, going directly to my destination, not having to walk at all, and making whatever stops along the way I damn well please, but is it really worth the price I pay for that freedom?  Is it really freedom when I have to work like a dog just to have the means to get to my job?  Sometimes, I wish I could just take a train.

I imagine places like New York or Europe, with their train systems, as idyllic for not just efficient, environmentally friendly transportation, but also social mobility.  I imagine being able to walk down to the corner, hop on a train and be anywhere in the city for the small price of a subway fare.  I imagine how this would effect the entire community in which I live, and how many new, different people I might meet if they were free from their geographical limitations.  I imagine owning a car becoming a luxury, rather than a necessity.  Now THAT is freedom.  Unfortunately, I can only imagine these things because the state in which I live has no public transportation, or at least none worth mentioning.

“Public train system?” you might say, “That sounds expensive.  That means new taxes.”

Well, are those taxes going to be more, per capita, than what it would cost to maintain, insure, fuel, and finance a personal vehicle?  To say nothing of the environmental costs?  Well then shut the fuck up!  Besides, you know what else costs money?  Building roads for your over-privileged white ass to drive a Lexus from the suburbs to downtown every day!  If we’re gonna spend public money either way, why not spend it on a train system that EVERYONE can use, as opposed to roads that a lot of people can’t use because they don’t have the money to buy a car in the first place?

By building roads instead of trains, they FORCE us to buy a car, burn gas, pollute the air, and buy insurance because THERE IS NO OTHER OPTION.  Why would they do that?

Because its a publicly-funded blow job for the auto, oil, and insurance industries, that’s why.  Its yet another public decision being made for the benefit of selective corporate interests.

But don’t mind that.  Be happy you can afford a car.  Enjoy your gilded cage.  Never mind the inefficiency, the wastefulness and social alienation caused by everyone being confined to their personal little transport bubbles as opposed to all riding together towards a common destination.  You too can revel in the brilliance of such urban planning decisions as putting the place where everyone gets drunk 20 miles down the highway from where everyone lives.  Sure, someone might get killed by a drunk driver every now and then, but think of the revenue generated for the police from DUIs!

And when you’re partying downtown and someone hands you a hit of acid, you don’t take it because you have to worry about your precious car, your holy temple of personal transport, your personal monument to capitalism!  So you don’t get loose and mingle, you drive home disappointed and jack off to porn like the suburban loser you are.  Ain’t it great to be free?

Our Classist Higher Education System

Public education definitely has its flaws, but our higher (private) education system in America I think is the penultimate example of classism in our society.

We all know some rich fuckup who had everything going for him, infinite support from his parents, luxury car, all bills paid, and still managed to flunk out of college because he was a bad student or maybe college wasn’t for him.  Conversely, we all know some immigrant badass who had nothing going for him, worked 60 hours a week and still managed to graduate with a 4.0 and move on to postgrad.

However, both of these examples represent anecdotal evidence that is not in line with statistical trends.  Statistically, affluent college students, whose parents give them more help, do better and go farther in higher education.  I mean really its just common sense.  The “all bills paid, free ride” rich kids have literally nothing to worry about except getting good grades, partying, and getting laid.  The rest of us on the other hand, have to worry about bills, rent, wage slavery, and cramming 25 hours of activity into a 24 hour day.  OF COURSE THE WEALTHY DO BETTER!

What really burns me is when these over-privileged brats then go out into the world with this attitude like they’ve achieved something, like they have more merit than the rest of us.  Sorry guys, hate to burst your bubble, but your social status is more the result of the class you were born into than any kind of merit or hard-won achievement.  Get over yourself and your inflated sense of entitlement and accomplishment.

I really busted my ass to get through college.  I had some minimal support from my parents, but I was the last of three kids and the product of a defunct marriage to boot, so naturally I got a little shafted.  I can’t blame my parents for this too much, after all they put 3 kids through school, so I can’t say they didn’t suffer to make that happen, or that they should have suffered more on my behalf.  My parents sacrificed plenty to get us through school.  I’m not saying they should have done more, but the system should have done more.  Financial Aid, Scholarships and Grants were out of the question for me simply because of my parents’ income.

Seriously, I worked full time, and had several side business .  I worked my ass off, and the final GPA wasn’t horrible, but it definitely wasn’t what it could have been had I had proper support.  It would definitely be a major challenge for me to go to postgrad at this point, as it would require doing some more undergrad work to boost my GPA and also take some more undergrad classes related to the field I would like to go into.   That’s just to get in, to say nothing of paying for grad school.

According to a labor study recently released, more people under the age of 30 are staying in school, rather than getting jobs.  Why?  Because the Boomers are working later than expected and the youth is getting squeezed out of the labor force.

I’m under 30, and I went straight from undergrad to the workforce upon graduating college. Parents told me grad school just wasn’t in the financial cards, and I’m not going to put myself through working 50 hours a week AND trying to go to grad school. So I got an entry level job, but I worry about my future, because in a few years all those kids who are in grad school right now are going to get out, and they will immediately be in a higher class than me, and their earning potential will quickly overshadow the meager financial progress I have made with my entry-level job.

It seems my parents’ decision to put their retirement ahead of my education has relegated me to a middle-class existence that will be very hard to climb out of. I don’t fit in with this national trend of staying in school until age 30, and that makes me worry about my future. I honestly wish I had the option of continuing my education, as I think that would be a better investment of the best years of my life than working for peanuts.

Its not so much about “making it” or “doing well” to me, its more about doing something meaningful with my life and being the best person I can be. I really feel as though I am quite capable of doing more than just menial office work. I am basically yet another American moving at half speed, half capacity, simply because no one has entrusted me with enough responsibility or opportunity to show what I can really do.

I also feel as though I need more education, and there aren’t enough opportunities for working class people like me who want to do more for society but simply lack the funding for higher education. The kind of career I want would be in scientific research, which is a field that requires a lot of education, but you end up making pretty low pay and living off grants mostly. And I’m not about to go 5 or 6 figures into debt just so I can get what basically amounts to job training so I can be a more productive member of society. If society doesn’t want to throw me a bone, then why should I even bother? I’ll just stagnate in the middle class existence I’ve been marginalized into and watch the world end on TV, knowing I probably could have done something to prevent it, had someone merely given me the most basic of resources to work with.

Its also a serious thorn in my side to watch these yuppie larva kids in grad school go on to way better lifestyles and jobs than me simply because their parents were willing to do so much for them. It makes me wonder, does the upper class really have more merit than I do, or did they simply just get better breaks in life?

Some parents think: “If I give my kid too much help, he’ll be spoiled and won’t appreciate anything.”  While that is true, the other side of the coin is: If you don’t give your kid enough support, he will be unable to compete and will ultimately lose the rat race that is capitalist education.

Its for all these reasons that I believe Higher Education should be FREE in America, much like it is in many parts of Europe.  If we truly want social mobility and an escape from the feudalistic moneyed aristocracy “the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor” situation we have in America now, this is the only way to go.  And yes, I know this would cost the general public a lot of money.  But this isn’t a handout we are talking about, this is a solid investment in the future of our society.  Especially if corporations are going to outsource/give to immigrants all of our menial jobs!  If Americans don’t want to pave roads and mop floors anymore, put a damn book in their hand and get them doing something higher level.

As it stands, it takes both money AND academic ability to get a higher education.  I say, take money out of the equation and let the common people really shine.  Lets see what they can really do.  I think we’ll be pleasantly surprised.  Sure, a few “off color” people might join the ranks of the higher classes, but what the hell is wrong with that?  That’s supposed to be what America is all about.

Corporate Employment and the Zero-Sum Game

Imagine a pie.  If there are four people splitting a pie, I get first cut, and I cut a piece about half the size of the pie, that means the other 3 peoples’ slices of the pie would have to be smaller than mine.  the largeness of my slice has negatively effected the slice of their pie.  This is what is referred to as a “Zero-Sum Game“.

Back when I was studying economics, I was often presented with the argument that “capitalism is NOT a Zero-Sum Game“.  What that basically means is that capitalists assume that resources are infinite, and therefore the size of one person’s share does not effect the size of another person’s share.  This seems to be a cornerstone of capitalist ideology, because I have heard this argument from many die-hard capitalists over the years.  Unfortunately for capitalism, this argument is complete malarkey.

OK, maybe 200 years ago, when Adam Smith and John Locke were writing the rules for capitalism, the idea of infinite resources was a little more plausible.  Back then, the human race was small, and the Earth was vast and unexplored.  It may have been OK for them to make such an assumption at that time, but in today’s modern age, the idea of infinite resources is becoming more and more an antiquated notion of yore.

I mean, we’ve been off the planet and photographed the whole damned thing from space.  Its just a pale blue dot.  It definitely has dimensions, a finite mass and volume.  Not to mention that we have pretty much staked out every single piece of real estate on Earth.  There are no more frontiers.  So the Earth is definitely finite.

Now, some would argue that the resources of the Universe are infinite, and that’s debatable and definitely pretty hard to prove.  But even if they were infinite, our access to them certainly isn’t.  With our current means of propulsion, it would be impractical to mine the solar system, let alone outside the solar system.

So, maybe, at some distant point in the future, if and when we achieve Star Trek-like technological capabilities (matter generation, free energy, etc…) then we might be able to say that our resources approached the infinite, but in the here and now, our resources are most certainly finite.

Now, back to the Zero-Sum Game argument.  Capitalists will use a variety of means to convince people that capitalism is NOT a Zero-Sum Game.  They like to use the ambiguity of a large scale environment to “prove” their point.

“Sure, I’m a millionaire,” they say, “But there are a lot of millionaires!  Anyone can be one.  Me being a millionaire doesn’t prevent someone else from being a millionaire.”

Now, in the context of the big world, this is almost believable.  But in the context of a smaller-scale environment, such as a small corporation, the Zero-Sum Game becomes obvious.

At any given company, salaries are paid by a finite pool of revenue.  The company only makes so much revenue a year, and thus the payroll is definitely finite.  Therefore, if your boss makes $100k a year, and you only make $30k, and when you ask for a raise the company says “we can’t afford to give you one”, your boss’s high salary is most certainly at least partially to blame for the company’s inability to give you a raise.  In other words, the largeness of you boss’s slice of the pie has negatively effected the size of your slice.

This is why at any given company in America, the situation you normally have is a bunch of hardworking, intelligent, underpaid people doing most of the work, while all the company’s revenue goes to lazy, incompetent, overpaid executives.  This is the truth of our era, and anyone trying to propagate ideas to the contrary is just a wealthy man trying to avoid getting lynched by the working class he rips off on a daily basis.